Can Dogs Get Fans Back in the Seats?

The Miami Heat is testing Covid-19 sniffing dogs.

Who is ready to get back to the arena and cheer on your favorite team? I know I am. In Texas, we say, “How ‘bout ‘dem Cowboys?” The Miami Heat from the National Basketball Association plans to test a novel idea to get fans safely back into the stands.

ESPN reported the Miami Heath will test out the use of coronavirus-sniffing dogs to help screen fans for entry to games. Initially, this trial will be limited to a small group of participants.

The idea of using dogs could use more research but is not as crazy as it sounds. The UAE was the first airport to add airport sniffer dogs to detect Covid-19 on passengers. Travelers still underwent Covid PCR testing, but the addition of canine screening helped accurately detect infected travelers. A small report in Nature showed the dogs’ detection of Covid-19 correlated with PCR testing with 92% accuracy.

The super sniffing abilities of dogs are well-known. Hunters partner with man’s best friend in the search for wild game. Detection dogs are commonplace in airports and customs agencies to detect explosives and illegal drugs. Police train dogs to detect blood or find lost victims and suspects.

While the human nose has five million scent receptors, canine noses have 300 million. Sniffer dogs are trained to detect patterns of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). With Covid-19, researchers have not yet determined what exactly the dogs are smelling. The report in Nature suggests human viral illness creates a distinct pattern of VOCs recognizable to the dogs.

Published data is scant, but several studies to validate the efficacy of canine screening are in progress. Dr. Riad Sarkis, a Lebanese surgeon at the French St Joseph University in Beirut, is studying the issue in conjunction with the National Veterinary School of Alfort. The preliminary data is encouraging but unpublished at this time.

Experts hope the scientific research in progress continues to show positive findings, and furry friends may be another tool to get us back the things we love. But more research is needed, as well as concern paid to how people might feel about dogs being used as a screening tool.

Photo by Ryan on Unsplash

Covid-19 sniffing dogs may not be ready in time for us to see Tom Brady win his 7th Superbowl. Perhaps, they will help my family cheer on Luka Dončić carry the Dallas Mavericks this fall.

Soccer fans everywhere want to see fans in the stands for AFC Richmond Season Two with Coach Ted Lasso.

Thank you Medium Coronavirus Blog for publishing this article on Medium.

Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingston 

Main Blog Photo By: Dragos Cojocari Istock by Getty